The University of Utah took a big step toward confirming a playoff spot in the D1-A West with a tough 49-32 defeat of the University of Colorado Buffaloes Friday night in Boulder.
Props Spencer Vickery and Nick Mostyn both scored two tries for Utah and flyhalf Danny Christensen had a solid evening kicking for goal, but the Utes could not really shake Colorado. Center Mote Houma also scored two.
"Mote is a good athlete, and he's probably naturally a #7," said Utah Head Coach Blake Burdette. "But he's giving us what we need at center and helping the team."
CU’s lineout was at issue early on as the Utes filched two throw-ins and marched into Buff territory, banging their way forward in powerful fits and starts, seeking creases in CU’s defensive line until the hosts were judged offsides 30 meters from goal on the inside right hashmark. Flyhalf Danny Christensen drilled the penalty kick and it was 3-0 Utah two minutes in.
A Buffs chance to level from in front of the posts went begging in the 10th minute as a blast of wind skewed the shot wide right and the travelers rushed back into CU territory, consistently making the gain line plus the crucial one or two meters that kept them on the front foot at each phase. They spilled forward into CU’s 22 and flowed quickly to the Buff’s threshold. Utah worked a half-dozen crashes within 10 meters of their host’s tryline before loosehead Nick Mostyn punched into goal for the grounding, converted by Christensen. Utah led 10-0.
CU picked up their game and were able to effect turnover ball and serve their speedy threequarters near midfield. A Ute back was unable to find the handle on the pill and CU’s stellar outside center, Brendan Cox, scooped up ball and tore diagonally across midfield and into Utah’s 22 before being brought to earth. Flyhalf Chris Martin, moved to the pivot from fullback for the match, snatched possession from out the loose and jetted over goal for a try that reduced the Ute lead to five midway through the half.
The Buffs leveled things in the 26th minute as replacement fullback Jack Porter touched down in the corner after an extended period of maulwork.
But Utah came back when tighthead Spencer Vickery shot out from a pileup to cross the line. With Christensen’s conversion Utah now led 17-10.
CU drew to within four as JC Trubelt de Nermont slotted a penalty. The teams went into halftime with Utah up 17-13 and everything to play for.
The visitors got directly back into it after the second half kicked off when Houma shot through a gap close in to dot Christensen’s conversion and it was 27-13 at minute 42.
Utah extended their lead after a splendid 40 meter counter by replacement back Winston Harris along touch enabled a slick offload to inside center Tonata Lauti who crossed and dotted in the corner, and the Utes were up 32-13 at the 50th minute.
With CU on the front foot and threatening Utah’s goaline, left wing Bridger Walzer was spotted playing the ball on the deck which earned him a ten minute seat for his trouble, and the travelers were down a man at minute 52. The Buffs were swift to capitalize as Cox gathered the ball at breakdown 20 yards from Utah’s goal, found some space, and rocketed in for the try, converted by Trubelt de Nermont, amking it 32-20. Clearly Utah could not shake CU and the game was going to be contested to the wire.
Houma scored again, this time down the sideline, to give Utah some breathing space, but CU replied - replacement prop Mike Sangaline, rumbling 22 meters to paydirt. 37-25 Utah led.
Utah's Walzer jinked through midfield and at the ensuing breakdown Mostyn picked up and dove over for his second. 42-25. But Colorado's Martin quick-tapped and was in for another score to keep Utah honest.
But it was to be Utah who had the final say as Vickery collected a long pass ten meters out from CU’s goal and crossed for his second and the front row's fourth. Christensen added the extras and Utah had the win they needed, 49-32.
Utah improves to 4-1 in the West, while Colorado is eliminated from playoff contention as the Buffs drop to 3-3.
Utah will play 3-1 Air Force tomorrow (Saturday) in a game that will likely decide who finishes 2nd in the West.
Tries: Mostyn 2, Vickery 2, Houma 2, T. Lauti
Convs: Christensen 4
Pens: Christensen 2
Tries: Martin 2, Porter, Cox, Sangaline
Convs: Trublet de Nermont 2
Pens: Trublet de Nermont